Canadians shine and struggle in UFC297

Story by Owen Matthews, Tim Kalinowski, and Noah Amaral

UFC made its return to Toronto for UFC 297 on January 20th at the Scotiabank Arena. This marks their first return to the city since December of 2018. The card consisted of now-former middleweight(185lbs) champion Sean Strickland taking on the now-current champion of the weight class, Dricus Du Plessis. After what both men categorized as a “war”, the South African, Dricus, came out on top with a split decision win against Strickland. Dricus is the first-ever South African champion in the UFC and only one of very few to ever compete in the organization.

Canadian fighters were featured in 9 of the 12 fights, none being title fights. Unfortunately, 7 of the 9 fighters were handed a loss in their fights. Both Canadian women, Gillian Robertson and Jasmine Jasudavicius, were the only Canadians to pull off victories with all 7 men taking a loss.

In the undercard of UFC 297, Canadian bantamweight(135lbs) Jasmine Jasudavicius earned herself a late third-round submission against Brazil’s Priscilla “Zombie Girl” Cachoeira. The 34-year-old Brampton native dominated Priscilla on the ground, causing her opponent’s face to be bloodied after the first round. The second round consisted of Jasmine landing a beautiful right hand that would drop Cachoeira. Jasmine was in the driver’s seat after two rounds, but she wanted more.

“I want to show how mean I am,” said Jasmine (10-3-0), whose current record with the organization stands at 4-2-0.

She did just that. Late in the third, Jasmine caught Priscilla sleeping while in full mount. This opened up for Jasmine to sink in an anaconda choke, forcing The Zombie Girl to tap with only 39 seconds remaining in the fight.

According to UFC stats, Jasmine landed a total of 93 significant strikes of over 300 thrown, compared to Priscilla’s 24 significant strikes. She also rallied up two total takedowns and 3 submission attempts in her dominant performance.

Jasmine will now look to move up the flyweight(125lbs) rankings after it was announced two days after the event, that Jasmine is ranked 15th in the division. She is the only Canadian Women’s UFC fighter to currently be ranked. She will look to face another opponent in the rankings. Before Jasmine’s big win at UFC 297, she took a tough loss to 10th-ranked Tracy Cortez. The step-in competition was too high. Looking forward, Jasmine will have many opponents below the 10th ranking ready to battle it out in the octagon.

Canada’s last win of the night came in the second women’s bout of the night. Canadian Gillian Robertson was looking to improve her UFC record to 10-6 with a win over Polyana Viana. Gillian would use her ground game to score takedowns in the first two rounds, eventually getting the second-round TKO finish.

This marked a 16th outing with the UFC organization for Robertson. Growing up in Niagara Falls, ON and now fighting out of Coconut Creek, FL, Gillian is now tied for second most finishes in UFC women’s history, with nine. She also holds records for most submission wins and finishes in the flyweight division(125lbs) before dropping down to the strawweight division(115lbs).

The last Canadian fighter to be featured on the card was young Canadian phenom Mike Malott. Mike was coming into this fight riding a 3-fight stoppage win streak under the UFC organization. Earning his contract in October of 2021, Malott was still a newcomer. He had a tough matchup against veteran Neil Magny, but you couldn’t tell.

The Canadian star was composed all week at media coverage, despite having some of the most eyes on him.

“On Saturday night I’m gonna have 20 thousand people chanting for me and screaming my name. Like, that’s support, not pressure,” said Mike Mallott during his pre-fight press conference when asked about being dubbed as Canada’s next big star.

Mike Malott went into the third round of his bout at UFC 297 with the two first rounds almost certainly in his favour. He outstruck his opponent Neil Magny in both rounds and earned his opponent’s respect with the ground game. That was until the dying seconds of the third and final round. Malott went to the ground to secure a rear naked choke submission and everything went wrong. Neil Magny was able to escape the choke, move from half-mount to full-mount, and begin a barrage of punches that would force referee Kevin McDonald to stop the fight. Malott was 15 seconds away from the biggest and most defining win of his career. Instead, he sat on the canvas for several minutes after the fight.

The Brampton native will have to look to enter the rankings against a different opponent, as the USA’s Neil Magny continues his streak of most wins in the UFC’s welterweight division(170lbs).

Many of the decisions from the card stir up controversy and confusion in the Mixed Martial Arts community. Canadian fighter Charles Jourdain had a tough outing in his matchup a couple of weekends ago. He took on a much bigger and longer fighter in Sean Woodson. During their fight, Charles had trouble landing strikes on the much longer Woodson. Even with the deeper ground game, Jourdain found himself getting taken down and outwrestled. Woodson ended the fight with 80 landed significant strikes, compared to Jourdain’s 60 and secured the only takedown of the fight.

The real controversy hit when veteran announcer Bruce Buffer read out the scorecards. Jourdain believed his name was announced after a split decision was made. With Jourdain’s hands held high and Woodson about to exit the octagon, UFC Hall of Fame member and in-octagon reporter Daniel Cormier informed the featherweight(145lbs) fighters who won. Even Sean Woodson admitted confusion when he heard a spilt decision being called.

“I couldn’t hear what they finally said. It sounded like they said, Charles. I wasn’t sure. I looked over and Charles and his team were celebrating,” said Sean Woodson in his post-fight interview at UFC 297.

We can say Canada struggled at UFC 297. After having all Canadian fighters win at UFC 289 in Vancouver, fans had high hopes for their fighters. Other notable Canadian losses at UFC 297 include Malcolm Gordon’s submission loss to Jimmy “The Brick” Flick, Yohan Lainesse’s submission loss to Sam Patterson, Serhiy Sidey’s split decision loss to Ramon Taveras, Brad Katona’s decision loss to Garrett Armfield, and Marc-André Barriult’s decision loss to Chris Curtis.

Overall, the event did record numbers at a sold-out Scotiabank Arena. UFC 297 earned the Canadian gate record, pulling in CAD 10.6 million. It was an example of the continued support the UFC receives from Canadian audiences and the want for more mixed martial arts in Canada. In addition, the UFC found a home in the Scotiabank Arena as one of their premier fight locations. It proved to provide both fighters and fans with an experience like no other.